Joe Theismann
Joe Theismann 9-8-03 crop.jpg
Theismann in September 2003.
No. 7     
Personal information
Date of birth: (1949-09-09) September 9, 1949 (age 69)
Place of birth: New Brunswick, New Jersey
High School: South River (NJ)
Height: 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) Weight: 192 lb (87 kg)
Career information
College: Notre Dame
NFL Draft: 1971 / Round: 4 / Pick: 99
(by the Miami Dolphins)
Debuted in 1971 for the Toronto Argonauts
Last played in 1985 for the Washington Redskins
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of 1985
Pass attempts     3,602
Pass completions     2,044
Percentage     56.7
TD-INT     160-138
Passing Yards     25,206
QB Rating     77.4
Stats at
Stats at
Stats at
College Football Hall of Fame

Joseph Robert "Joe" Theismann (born September 9, 1949) is an American former quarterback in the National Football League (NFL) and Canadian Football League (CFL). He achieved his most enduring fame in his 12 seasons playing for the Washington Redskins, where he was a two-time Pro Bowler and quarterback of the winning team in Super Bowl XVII. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

Following his retirement from football, Theismann began a career as a sportscaster. He worked as an analyst with ESPN, primarily with Mike Patrick, for the network's Sunday Night Football package and for one season of Monday Night Football with Mike Tirico and Tony Kornheiser. Theismann also worked as a color analyst on NFL Network's Thursday Night Football package with play-by-play voice Bob Papa and Matt Millen. Theismann also co-hosts the network's weekly show Playbook.

Early lifeEdit

Theismann was born to Austrian Joseph John Theismann who "ran a gas station and worked in his brother’s liquor store."[1] His Hungarian mother, Olga Tobias, worked for Johnson & Johnson until her retirement. Theismann was raised in South River, New Jersey,[2] and attended South River High School, where he lettered in baseball, basketball, and football.[1] Although Theismann was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 39th round of the 1971 Major League baseball draft[3] he chose instead to accept a college football scholarship to attend the University of Notre Dame.

College careerEdit

At Notre Dame, Theismann became the starting quarterback as a sophomore, after Terry Hanratty was injured late in the season.[4] In the three remaining games in the regular season, he led the Irish to two wins and a tie. In 1969, Theismann led the Irish to a number five ranking, but lost to the University of Texas in the 1970 Cotton Bowl Classic, 21–17. The next year, the Irish had a 10–1 record, a number two ranking, and won against Texas in the 1971 Cotton Bowl Classic, 24–11.[4] That year, Theismann was an All-American and an Academic All-America, and was in contention for the Heisman Trophy. Notre Dame publicity man Roger Valdiserri insisted that he change the pronunciation of his name to rhyme with "Heisman", Theismann recounted later,[5] but he finished second to Jim Plunkett of Stanford University.[1][4][6]

Theismann set school records for passing yards in a season (2,429) and touchdowns in a season (16).[4] He also set a school record for passing yards in a game (526) and completions in a game (33) while playing against the University of Southern California in a torrential downpour in 1970, which they lost 38–28.[7] As a starting quarterback, Theismann compiled a 20–3–2 record while throwing for 4,411 yards and 31 touchdowns.[4] His 4,411 passing yards rank fifth on Notre Dame's career passing list.[7]

Theismann was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.[4] He was the eighth Notre Dame quarterback enshrined into the hall, joining former Heisman Trophy winners Angelo Bertelli, John Lujack, and Paul Hornung.[7]

Professional careerEdit

Canadian Football LeagueEdit

Theismann was selected in the fourth round of the 1971 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins and in the 39th round of the 1971 Major League Baseball Draft by the Minnesota Twins.[8] After prolonged negotiations with the Dolphins failed, Theismann elected to sign with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League for $50,000 per season.[9] In his rookie year, Theismann quarterbacked the Argonauts to a 10–4 record, led the league's Eastern Conference in passing statistics and won a berth in the Grey Cup championship game in Vancouver, British Columbia versus the Calgary Stampeders (59th Grey Cup). A fumble late in the fourth quarter by Argonaut running back Leon McQuay close to the goal line cost the Argonauts the Grey Cup.

In 1971, he completed 148 of 278 passes for 2,440 yards and 17 touchdowns (with 21 interceptions). His 1972 season was shortened by injury, but he hit 77 of 127 passes for 1,157 yards and ten touchdowns. During his last CFL season, 1973, 157 of his 274 passes were complete, for 2,496 yards and both 13 touchdowns and interceptions. He was an all-star in both 1971 and 1973.

National Football LeagueEdit


In 1974, the National Football League's Washington Redskins obtained Theismann's rights. Theismann left the CFL and joined the Redskins, where he served as the team's punt returner during his first season.[10] In 1978, Theismann became the Redskins' starting quarterback, succeeding Billy Kilmer.

In 1982, Theismann led the Redskins to their first championship in 40 years; against the Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII, he threw two touchdown passes and, with the Redskins trailing 17–13 in the third quarter, made arguably the most important defensive play of the game—after his pass was deflected by Dolphins lineman Kim Bokamper, causing what appeared to be an interception and sure touchdown (which would have given Miami a two-score lead and effectively taken MVP running back John Riggins out of the game), Theismann himself was able to knock the ball out of Bokamper's hands,[11] keeping the score close enough for Washington to stick to the run-heavy strategy that would eventually lead to victory. He also led the team to an appearance in Super Bowl XVIII the following year, and would go on to set several Redskins franchise records, including most career passing attempts (3,602), most career passing completions (2,044) and most career passing yards (25,206), while also throwing 160 touchdown passes, with 138 interceptions. On the ground, he rushed for 1,815 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was named NFL MVP in 1983 by four organizations.[10] He earned the Player of the Game Award in the second of his two Pro Bowl appearances. Theismann also punted once in his career, for one yard against the Chicago Bears.[10][12]


In an era when most quarterbacks had long since used variations of a double-bar facemask (or even triple-bar facemasks) that afforded more protection, Theismann refused to use anything but a one-bar facemask throughout his career.[13]


Theismann's career ended on November 18, 1985 when he suffered a comminuted compound fracture of his leg while being sacked by New York Giants linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson during a Monday Night Football game telecast. The injury was voted the NFL's "Most Shocking Moment in History" by viewers in an ESPN poll, and the tackle was dubbed "The Hit That No One Who Saw It Can Ever Forget" by The Washington Post.[14]

At the time, the Redskins had been attempting to run a "flea-flicker" play. The Giants' defense, however, was not fooled, and they tried to blitz Theismann. As Taylor pulled Theismann down, Taylor's knee came down and drove straight into Theismann's lower right leg, fracturing both the tibia and the fibula. Giants linebackers Gary Reasons and Harry Carson then joined Taylor in the sack.

"It was at that point, I also found out what a magnificent machine the human body is", Theismann said. "Almost immediately, from the knee down, all the feeling was gone in my right leg. The endorphins had kicked in, and I was not in pain."[14]

As Theismann lay on the field, a horrified Taylor frantically screamed and waved for emergency medical technicians. Initially, however, many Redskins personnel thought Taylor's screaming and pointing directed at their sidelines was a taunt over the fact that he had successfully stopped their play. Taylor has said that his animated behavior was largely a claustrophobic reaction to having been trapped at the bottom of the pile that followed his tackle.[15] The Monday Night Football announcer team (composed of Frank Gifford, O. J. Simpson and Joe Namath) inferred from the start that Taylor was calling for help.

While initially only the players on the field could see the extent of the damage to Theismann's leg, the reverse-angle instant replay provided a clearer view of what had actually happened—Theismann's lower leg bones were broken midway between his knee and his ankle, such that his leg from his foot to his mid-shin was lying flat against the ground while the upper part of his shin up to his knee was at a 45-degree angle to the lower part of his leg.

The compound fracture of the tibia led to insufficient bone growth during Theismann's recovery, leaving his right leg shorter than his left. As a result, the injury forced Theismann into retirement at the age of 36. Theismann has never blamed Lawrence Taylor for his injury.

This injury was highlighted in the film The Blind Side as the reason that, after the quarterback, one of the highest paid football players is the left tackle, who protects a righthanded quarterback's blind side.

Broadcasting careerEdit

In 1985, Theismann helped call Super Bowl XIX for ABC alongside Frank Gifford and Don Meredith, becoming only the second person to do commentary on a Super Bowl telecast while still an active player at the time (the first was Jack Kemp when he helped call Super Bowl II for CBS). Theismann served as a color commentator on regional CBS NFL coverage in 1986 and 1987, then worked on ESPN's Sunday Night Football telecasts from 1988 to 2005, and on their Monday Night Football coverage in 2006.

In addition to covering football, Theismann hosted the first half of the first season of American Gladiators in 1989.

On March 26, 2007, ESPN announced that Ron Jaworski would replace Theismann in the Monday Night Football booth. Theismann rejected an offer to work on the network's college football coverage. He has since done a number of Washington Redskins pre-season games on CSN. On September 16, 2009, the NFL Network announced that Theismann would analyze game films on the show Playbook, airing Thursday and Friday nights at 6 p.m. Eastern.

On September 6, 2010, NFL network announced that they had added Theismann to their Thursday Night Football broadcast crew alongside Bob Papa and Matt Millen.[16] The three only announced one season (2010) together.

Theismann co-hosted football coverage on NBC in 2010,[17] and co-hosted NFL Network's No Huddle in 2011.[18]

Personal lifeEdit

File:Joe Theismann.jpg

Theisman and his first wife Shari (Brown) divorced in 1984. The couple have three children, Joe, Amy, and Patrick, who are all now married. His second marriage, to former Miss Connecticut and Miss America contestant Jeanne Caruso, ended in divorce after three years. Theismann is now married to Robin Theismann. They have homes in Virginia, Tennessee, and the Florida Panhandle.[1]

Theismann is the owner of Joe Theismann's Restaurant[19] in Alexandria, Virginia, founded 1976.[20]

Theismann's son, Joseph W., pleaded guilty in 2002 to drug charges[21] of dealing cocaine and possessing drug paraphernalia. He received a ten-year suspended prison term, was placed on five years of probation and fined.[22]

Theismann was inducted into the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 1997.[23]

Theisman has acted as a national spokesman for several companies including Colonial Penn life insurance company and for Super Beta Prostate. [24]

On August 19, 2010, head coach Jay Gruden of the UFL's Florida Tuskers "confirmed that Theismann introduced himself to the Tuskers as the team's new part owner".[25] Theismann expressed disappointment at the way he was treated during his time in the league and left the team when it was folded into the Virginia Destroyers in January 2011.[26]

On February 13, 2013, Theismann appeared as himself as part as a buyer group for the fictional New York Hawks football team on the TV series Necessary Roughness.

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Harry Jaffe (2007-12-01). "Joe Theismann Sounds Off". Washingtonian. Retrieved 2008-12-26.
  2. Amdur, Neil. "Theismann Pleases Irish Coach In Every Statistic Except One; Quarterback From Jersey Is Intercepted 16 Times -- Awaits Biggest Chance", The New York Times, December 27, 1969. Accessed March 20, 2011. "The snow was stacked as high and tight as a goal-line defense near Joe Theismann's house at 3 Arlington Avenue in South River, N. J., yesterday."
  3. "1971 Draft Results - Round 39 - The Baseball Cube:". The Baseball Cube.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 "Theismann's College Football Hall of Fame profile". College Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2008-12-26.
  5. Joe Theismann (2007-07-31) (video). America's Game - 1982 Redskins - Joe Theismann. Event occurs at 0:40.
  6. "Heisman Winners : 1970 - 36th Award : Jim Plunkett". 1970. Retrieved 2010-09-30.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 AP (2004-08-12). "Green, Sanders also among inductees". College Football. Retrieved 2008-12-26.
  8. "Baseball Draft: 39th Round of the 1971 June Draft". Retrieved 2008-12-27.
  9. "CFL Scrapbook".
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Joe Theismann NFL & AFL Statistics. Pro Football Reference.
  12. UPI (September 30, 1985). "Bears Show Redskins A Team On The Rise". Lodi News-Sentinel, p. 17.
  13. Graham, Tim (August 11, 2009). "Face of the NFL is gone - an ode to the single-bar".
  14. 14.0 14.1 Leonard Shapiro (2005-11-18). "The Hit That Changed a Career". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
  15. Michael Lewis. The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. W. W. Norton, 2006.
  16. Gregg Rosenthal (September 6, 2010). "Joe Theismann to join NFL Network booth".
  17. Michael Hiestand (2009-12-06). "Gibbs, Theismann to reunite for NBC wild-card game". USA Today. Retrieved 2009-12-08.
  18. "Joe Theismann's 'Danny Woodcock' Gaffe: NFL Network Analyst Slips On Air (VIDEO)". January 14, 2011. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
  19. Joe Theismann's Restaurant
  20. Paul Attner (1976-10-29). "Theismann Plans, but does not wait, for future". The Milwaukee Journal ( via Google News Archive. The Washington Post.
  21. AP (February 12, 2002). "Son of football great Joe Theismann faces cocaine charges".; Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2010-07-08.
  22. AP (January 15, 2003). "Joe Theismann's Son Gets Drug Sentence". Highbeam Research archive.
  23. "Hall of Fame Annual Awards, 1997". New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. 1997. Retrieved 2008-12-25.
  24. In 2013 he announced on national television that his aging prostate was giving him fits.. Joe Theismann's Super Beta Prostate Endorsement
  25. Radcliffe, Jeff (August 19, 2010). Joe Theismann in talks to become part owner of Florida Tuskers. Retrieved 2010-08-19.
  26. Masters, Mark (2011-06-24). "Unplugged: Theismann on the CFL, NFL and Marc Trestman". National Post. Retrieved 2011-06-25.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Mark Moseley
AP NFL Most Valuable Player
1983 season
Succeeded by
Dan Marino
Preceded by
Lesley Bush
Larry Echohawk
Kwaku Ohene-Frempong
Bob Lanier
Mike Phipps
Mike Reid
Silver Anniversary Awards (NCAA)
Class of 1996
Marty Liquori
Thomas Lewis Lyons
Cliff Meely
Kurt L. Schmoke
Joe Theismann
Jack Youngblood
Succeeded by
Tommy Casanova
Jack Ford
David Joyner
Edward B. Rust Jr.
James Tedisco
Herb Washington

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